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What does it mean to be free?

Amidst all the current restrictions on people’s freedom, Jane Walters recalls a recent holiday and how much the Channel Islanders rejoice in their freedom from previous oppression.

Last year I had the opportunity to travel to Guernsey for a holiday. Beautiful though the place is, and I’m hoping to return one day, there are reminders everywhere of the German occupation during World War II.  Still now, it’s like there’s a banner over the island declaring its message of Liberation – it’s even the name of their local brew.  Having once known the horrors of enemy invasion and oppression, freedom is something the islanders don’t take for granted.
Freedom is one of the great benefits of living in the West.  Our society and culture aim to honour human rights, which include the freedom to come and go as we choose and to speak out whatever is on our mind.  There are courtesies and responsibilities that go along with that, of course.   It doesn’t give us licence to wander over private property or verbally and physically abuse others.  Instead, we respect the different beliefs and opinions of the people with whom we share the planet.
Recently, the Covid-19 pandemic has imposed severe restrictions on our freedom.  The entire nation has been put into a kind of domestic imprisonment, the ‘right to roam’ at first limited to essential journeys and daily outdoor exercise.  Although the rules are changing, we still can’t just go where we please.  This invisible enemy has invaded and all of us are caught up in the fight.
All this time, we took freedom for granted, thinking its supplies were endless:- Freedom to be together with those we love, Freedom to move around where and when we want to, Freedom to have a meal or a drink in a pub or restaurant. All of us could add to that list our own particular things we’re missing out on.  And, in place of freedom, we have not only frustration but other invaders such as anxiety, fear, worry, and depression.
All of this begs a question for me: what does it mean to be free?  Is it something we can experience within the midst of restriction, limitation, and constraint or do we have to wait until it’s all over?  I’m not talking ‘mind over matter’ here, but remembering the words of Jesus, who said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).  I find that His presence in my life makes all the difference.  We might be stuck indoors for now, but He’s with us wherever we are.

The image of Guernsey above is courtesy of Jane Walters.
Also published in the Great Yarmouth Mercury and on Network Yarmouth.

Jane Walters 175Jane Walters, formerly Clamp, is the author of Too Soon, a mother’s journey through miscarriage (SPCK) and a regular contributor to Premier Radio and UCB. She leads creative writing retreats and is a popular speaker locally and further afield. Visit: www.janeclamp.com


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